“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”—Hebrews 4:1
“…Let us run with endurance…”—Hebrews 12:1
Two friends set out to run a marathon together. They had never run a marathon before so they thought it would be a good challenge. So, in order to prepare, the two men began to train together. Soon after they started their training, some of their other friends who had learned that they were running a marathon began to offer them advice and counsel. These friends had themselves run marathons in the past and therefore could offer some good instruction on how to run, how to train, and what to be careful of.
However, there was a noticeable difference between how each of the two friends received the counsel they heard from their other friends. The first friend appeared very serious about running the marathon and especially about completing the race and therefore readily accepted all the counsel that his friends gave him.
They told him how to train, how to pace himself during the race, and various things to be careful of. They told him that he needed to be very cautious to not indulge in fatty foods during his training months; they instructed him to purchase good shoes so that he would not hurt his feet during the long runs; and they told him to make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the race. The first friend listened intently to these directions and set himself to diligent training.
The second friend, however, did not receive the counsel in the same way as the first friend. Although he had expressed interest in the marathon when they first began dicussing it together, the second friend found that his desires to run and finish the race were not very strong. He found that he would rather watch TV and eat whatever he wanted. He also did not think it was worth it to purchase new shoes for this race so he settled for his old ones.
After several months, race day finally came. The first friend was excited to run. He had trained well and was looking forward to completing his first marathon. The second friend, on the other hand, was not as eager to run and it showed. He was not in the excellent shape that his friend was in, nor did his shoes look as though they were fit for another three yards much less 26.2 miles.
After the gun sounded, the first friend quickly got out in front of the other friend. The first friend’s stride was smooth and consistent. The second friend, however, was already breathing hard and his stride was choppy as he ran, head down with his feet pounding hard against the pavement; nothing, of course, like his friend whose strong and poised gait pushed him beyond eye-shot.
It was evident that the second friend was not going to finish the race. Shortly after the fifth mile, the second friend gave up. He stopped running, took off his number, lifted the rope that kept the spectators from crowding the running path, and walked away from the race. What happened? To those who knew him, the reason for his early departure from the race was clear: the second friend had not heeded the warnings given to him months before the race and therefore was not prepared for the long and difficult run that lie before him. But more than that, the second friend’s sudden exit from the marathon revealed something else: it revealed that he neither desired to finish the race, nor did he believe the warnings applied to him.